UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

October 19, Saturday  
The martyrs John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and companions

The North American Martyrs, also known as the Canadian Martyrs or the Martyrs of New France, were eight Jesuit missionaries from Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons, who were martyred in the mid-17th century in Canada and upstate New York.

The martyrs are Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Noël Chabanel, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, René Goupil, Jean de Lalande and Gabriel Lalemant.

As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World. In 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois and Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.

An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.” His zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. After a few months he sailed once more for his mission among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party and on October 18th Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York.

Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and labored there for 24 years. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron and saw 7,000 converted before his death.  He went back to France in 1629 when the English captured Quebec and expelled the Jesuits, but returned four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with his converts. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada.

Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church.  These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930.